Sunday, January 11, 2015

Lesson Time!

A few weeks ago, Shar and I hauled our horses out for lessons in Prineville with C, a "Centered Riding" instructor.  Centered Riding isn't a particular discipline (like taking lesons in jumping, dressage, or reining would be), but rather just on being well-balanced and being a better rider overall.  Plus, C rides Endurance.  So basically, they're endurance lessons.  At the lesson a few weeks ago, there were 6 or 8 of us.  While it is beneficial to watch others ride and see the feedback they get, when the group gets large enough, the feedback you receive personally is less, of course, plus the arena gets crowded and whatnot.  So Shar and I opted for semi-private lessons this time--just her and me.

The plan was for each of us to spend 30 minutes on a 1-on-1 lesson in the round pen, followed by a joint hour-long lesson in the arena.  But while I watched Shar getting started in her lesson, C asked if our horses were good together (um, yes, they're basically BFFs), and invited me in, too.  So we ended up spending the full two hours in a two-person lesson.  So sometimes we took turns, and one of us sat in the center of the round pen and watched the other, but for the majority of the time, we were both riding at the same time--more for our money, but also more saddle time makes for MORE sore muscles.  :-)

We started out with some stretching exercises.  The horses were theoretically supposed to stand still while we did them.  Flash knew the routine, plus he's been there, done that and knows it's wiser to stand still when given the opportunity.  Arya, though, is lazy, but she's also curious and a bit fidgety, so she kept taking a step.  The first few times she moved while I had my feet out of the stirrups (oh, did I mention that was a pretty big part of the lesson?), I freaked out.  Well, not hugely, but I did worry about my balance a bit and grab the horn.  Sheesh.

But after a while of both doing exercises at a theoretical halt, then walking around without stirrups, I got much more used to it and much less worried.  It's surprising the things that you think will be relatively easy to do turn out to be really hard--lifting your knees and calves up and away from the horse about an inch is extremely difficult.  And that some things I thought I wouldn't be able to do, I did fairly easily--standing in the stirrups at the walk.

After a bunch of exercises at the walk, focusing on our own bodies as well as the horses' strides, we moved on to some trotting exercises.  Oh, and did I mention that all of this was without any reins?  Well, without USING the reins.  Luckily she didn't actually take them OFF, but we weren't touching them.  I surprised myself with being totally fine with that.

She had Shar work on some transitions from trot to walk to halt and back again.  However, when it was my turn, we worked on getting Arya to trot--she's not a huge fan of arena/round pen work, and is always reluctant to trot.  But C taught me that once I've asked her nicely, I should whap her with the crop I carry, and that eventually it'll just take asking nicely and she'll start trotting without me having to whap her.  Well, what do you know, on the fourth try or so, it totally worked!  And I wondered when I'd be told to bring her back to a walk and then a halt, but she just had me keep trotting and keep trotting.  I actually was feeling really good and balanced and efficient and all that, but man, my legs were getting TIRED.  C is evil!  ;-)

Shar practiced some cantering, something that makes her nervous in an arena situation even though she's fine with it on the trail (kind of weird, since most people are the opposite, but she has had a bad experience in the arena, but not on the trail, so there you go.  She was nervous the first time, but did really well that time, and even better the second time.  And then we were done, and we were EXHAUSTED.

Here's some video Shar took of me riding in the lesson:

After the lesson, we headed back to Shar's house, but decided to stop and get lunch along the way.  Besides, it'd good for the horses to learn that they don't get out of the trailer every time it stops moving, right?  Well, that was our excuse, anyway.  :-)  As we were eating our delicious lunch and lamenting the lack of hot tub at either of our houses, Shar suggested we go to McMenamin's later and sit in their soaking pool.  Oh, yes, that sounded like an excellent idea.  She was pretty sure they kicked kids out at 7:00, so we decided to go then.  

We got home, unloaded the horses.  Oh, speaking of which, when I got Arya, her previous owner told me she'd only ever walked out of a trailer going forwards--she turns around inside the trailer and walks right out (which is actually pretty impressive, considering how big she is, that she doesn't get stuck in the trailer while turning around).  So on a whim, I decided to try backing her out of the trailer when we arrived at C's for the lesson.  I was in the trailer beside her (not right in front in case she changed her mind while backing out and sprung forward).  I asked her to back, which she did willingly for a step or two.  Then she turned her head around and looked behind her as if to say, "um, you know there's a big step down right there, right?  you really expect me to just BACK down over it?"  Yep, I did expect her to do just that.  I asked her to back until she was right up near the edge.  Then I said "step" so that hopefully she would start to learn that cue.  She put one of her hind feet back, over thin air, and kind of wagged it around, and then thought better of it and put it back in the trailer.  I kept asking her to go back with pressure on the lead rope while saying "step," and she put her hind food all the way down to the ground.  She paused for a second, then thought that maybe this was harder than she wanted to deal with, and hopped back up into the trailer.  That wasn't unexpected, so I didn't harass her about it at all, but just asked her to back up all over again.  That time, she put one foot down, then the other, then kept on backing up until both front feet were safely on the ground.  She looked pretty proud of herself, and I was proud of her, too.  We did the same again when we got home, and this time she didn't even hop back into the trailer.  She's a pro after just one time!  We'll practice it again every so often, but I'm glad she's such a smart, brave girl.

Anyway, so we got back to Shar's got the horses unloaded, etc., and then settled in to watch Goonies.  Shar was SHOCKED when I said I'd never seen it, so we remedied that problem.  :-)  Then it was time to head to McMenamins.  We soaked, stretched (is hot tub yoga a thing?  it should be!), floated, and relaxed.  Aaaaahhhh.  Then we got dressed, went to the restaurant, and decided to split a pear, gorgonzola, and candied walnut flatbread.  Oh, that was SO good.  Really hit the spot.

Then I had to come home and do laundry, as I'd ridden in the same clothes quite a few times and they were getting ripe, plus they'd gotten muddy, and we were riding again the next day.  Woo!  I've had worse reasons I've had to stay up later than I'd like.  

I slept SO good, then sure enough, went for another horseback ride today.  But that's a story for a different blog post...

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